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Tips for a Terrific Term 1

December, 2017

The heat is on and the pressure’s high!

We understand how busy this time of year can be and there is still plenty to do. While we’re all looking forward to getting a break during the holiday season, the team here are not going to take our foot off the gas until we get done what needs to be done.

Here are some ideas that could help you for the beginning of the new school year.

Considerations for Term 1

A helping hand

Did you know you can add pre-enrols to your School-links system and include them in your end-of-year/beginning of Term 1 communications? Manually add them as Caregivers or Associates and make sure you include them in the relevant groups. You’ll need to manually remove them after school starts but that’s not hard. If you need to know more please contact the helpdesk.

If your School-links data is up-to-date then you’ll be able to use the School-links app to send relevant texts for the start of the new year. Download the School-links Emergency Alerts App from iTunes or the Google Play store. Then you can send a text message to remind your school community about stationery purchases/requirements, uniform shop sales/times, start dates for T1 2018 etc, all from your mobile phone (anytime, anywhere).

If you haven’t downloaded the app yet, then you can still send texts or emails from your computer on the School-links portal. Log in and go to Messages > Create Message > Send a text and/or email or both.

It would be a good idea to update your School-links data just prior to school finishing so the most up to date data will be there if you need to send out messages over the holiday break.

There’s nothing like having students turn up on the right day and being prepared, and those pre-term communications are a great way to welcome your students and set them up for the school year.

New communication platform – Beep

Sometime near Term 1, you might notice a few new options in School-links when you send messages. Don’t panic — you can still send out texts and emails as you did before — only now, you can choose to send smartphone push notifications (we call them Beeps).
Find out more about Beep.

Using Parent Interviews Module to set up Uniform Shop allocated times

For schools or centres using School-links Parent Interviews module, are you aware you could use this to set up dates and times for the Uniform Shop, and publicise it prior to the close of school? Just ask if you need more information on this.

Reduce stress levels in an emergency

Whether it be to alert parents after an earthquake or during a lockdown, it is important to have the ability to contact your school community fast and efficiently. The School-links Emergency App and platform enables remote access from school management smartphones to send bulk text alerts to all your parents, staff and students, quickly and securely – in under 30 seconds.

So how does it work? Watch the video here.

Parent Interviews updates for the New Year

There are some updates coming up for Parent Interviews in the New Year that will be of value to current and new users alike. Aside from some enhancements to the look and feel there will be at least one major new feature.

We expect that you will be able to set up interviews where more than one family can book the same time with a teacher. This is something that has been requested by schools who run student-led conferences with multiple families in the classroom at the same time.

If you’re not a current user of Parent Interviews please ask how we can make it part of your plan.

What areas will require updating for 2018?

One of the questions we get asked in the new year is, “what about updating last years’ data?”. If you have been uploading your data file to School-links then you will continue to do that. The standard data upload CSV files sent into School-links will update existing data with new year levels and rooms, as well as any contact detail changes, and leavers will be identified and deleted. All you have to do is upload the datafile as per usual. If you entered anyone manually into School-links, they will remain in the system. They can then be edited or deleted manually; the system will not automatically touch them.

If you have any support issues or need assistance with any of the above areas, have any questions or would love a chat with Keith or Kim, then contact the support desk Toll Free 0800 333 480, or email: [email protected]. They are always eager to assist.

Don’t get caught out! – Email addresses

If an email address in School-links is entered incorrectly it will show “email bouncing’ next to the name in the Caregivers/Teacher lists (under Users & Groups), as the email address has been returned as not valid.

Common issues schools should be aware of when entering (pre-) enrolment data is that:

  1. gmail addresses are always gmail.comnever gmail.co.nz. It will return as undeliverable if you use gmail.co.nz.
  2. gamil.com is a common typo of gmail.com
  3. Xtra addresses are xtra.co.nz, not extra.co.nz
  4. Vodafone has closed down its email services as of 30 November 2017. Affected email domains include clear.net.nz, paradise.net.nz, vodafone.co.nz, vodafone.net.nz, and ihug.co.nz. To ensure delivery of emails you should get caregivers/staff to provide their replacement email addresses. While Vodafone is forwarding emails from the old addresses to the new ones, it’s best to use the new ones. Further information is available here.

The calm during the storm: how communication tools can minimise disruption to your school community

August, 2017

Most of New Zealand has been battered by storms over the last few weeks, from ice and snow closing roads to rain causing flooding, slips and states of emergency being declared across multiple cities and regions.

Fortunately for schools, a lot of this disruption happened during the school holidays. However, forecasters predict that we will likely experience more wild weather this winter, and with the grounds already saturated, it won’t take much to unsettle things again.

Emergency communications checklistDownload the New Zealand school emergency communication check-list.

It is a timely reminder for New Zealand schools to review their communications plans around disruptive weather events, and how they can could impact their school community – such as forced closures or creating dangerous travel conditions. Trying to understand how the the school community reacted to any unscheduled school closures, weather warnings and emergencies is useful:

  • Did parents understand that texts and emails are also school channels of communication and did not clog the phonelines ringing in?
  • Was the school able to warn parents about hazards or road closures that could affect their travel time to school?
  • Did staff understand their responsibilities when flooding made it evident the school needed to close immediately?
  • Did the school have reliable technology and processes in place to quickly reassure parents and communicate actions to take?

If you answered no to any of these questions, may need to implement a system that allows you to communicate to your school community in a quick, efficient and cost-effective manner. School administrators need to be the calm during the storm and ease concerns of parents, students and staff by keeping them updated and informed.

To help encourage effortless communication no matter the situation your school is facing, make sure your plan has the following features:

1. Remote access

Having remote access to a contacts list database will allow staff to access contact details immediately, wherever they may be. The easiest way to do this is by having your database accessible online. This way you don’t need to send anyone in to the school to send out a message – you just need access to the internet.

2. The ability to send one mass message

The most efficient way to notify parents of your school’s closure is to send out one mass notification message to a whole database. Sending an e-mail or text message, rather than relying on website notifications or phone trees, will save a lot of time and resources.

3. Delivery reports

Delivery reports are confirmations that show when each parent receives the text or e-mail. This will notify school staff of any parent who hasn’t received the message and alert them to take action to contact them by another communication channel.

4. Parents have confidence the school will contact them

Constantly remind parents that in the event of a school closure, the school will notify them. If parents do not know that they will be contacted by you, many will attempt to call the school to find out what is happening, resulting in the school phone system being inundated with calls and extra stress put on administration staff.

Being prepared now will save you from having even more stress during an already disruptive situation in the future. Click here to learn more about Newlands School’s experience during the Wellington 2016 earthquake and flooding and how they were able to “stomp on the rumours” and confusion at the time by using effective communication tools.

Learn more about school emergency procedures and lessons New Zealand schools have learned, in the white paper ‘Kia Kaha! Staying in control and effectively responding to emergencies at school’.

How to use the School-links Emergency Alerts App – Android

July, 2017

The School-links Emergency Alerts App allows schools to quickly and easily contact parents, caregivers, students and staff in an emergency. This video shows you how to use the App.

 

How to use the School-links Emergency Alerts App – Android from Andrew Balfour on Vimeo.

This short video created by School-links demonstrates how to use the Emergency Alerts app on your smartphone or tablet.

Use the Emergency Alerts App to send text messages to staff, caregivers and students in minutes. You will then receive real-time delivery reports to enable you to identify parents who may need to be contacted by phone or email.

If you are unable to enter the school building or if the school network has taken a hit, you can use any smart device on the mobile network.

Examples of use include:

  • school closures
  • natural disasters
  • alerting staff and students to a lockdown unobtrusively

Accessing the Emergency Alerts App

  1. Tap the ‘My Schools’ app icon on your smartphone or tablet.
  2. Tap your School-links account. Note: the first time you log in you will be asked for your username and password, but from then on you will just need your pin code.
  3. If you are linked to more than one school, you will see all the schools listed.
  4. Choose the appropriate school and select ‘Visit as ‘Master’ and your previous messages will display, if any.

How to type an alert

  1. Tap the plus symbol in the top right corner.
  2. Type a message up to 160 characters.
  3. Include the school name or a recognised shortcode, preferably at the beginning of the message, so that parents have confidence about the source and can identify which child/school the message concerns.
  4. Note: in a critical emergency situation, you may not have time to review replies. We recommend that if you have characters available then add ‘Do Not Reply’ or similar.
  5. Click ‘Save’ to come back to the message later or click ‘Save and send’ to broadcast the message immediately.

How to send an alert

  1. First, select your target audience. You can select more than one. Tap again to de-select if you make a mistake. Note that you cannot drill down any further e.g. to year level – messages will simply be sent to everyone in this category.
  2. To send, tap ‘Broadcast Now’. You cannot stop the message after this point. If you do want to edit it before broadcasting, select the back arrow in the top left.
  3. Once you have tapped ‘broadcast’, you will see the message at the top of the list of messages. It will say ‘pending’. After a few moments, if you refresh your screen or go back to the Visit as Master screen and select ‘visit as master’ the message status will say ‘broadcast’.
  4. If you have saved a message previously, it will show up in this list as a draft. You can tap on the message to edit it or broadcast it.

How to access the delivery report

  1. To access a delivery report, log in as previously and tap on the message.
  2. You will see how many were delivered successfully, how many failed and any replies, if you requested a reply.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us via our online support forum or free phone number.

How to use the School-links Emergency Alerts App – iPhone/iPad

July, 2017

The School-links Emergency Alerts App allows schools to quickly and easily contact parents, caregivers, students and staff in an emergency. This video shows you how to use the App.

How to use the School-links Emergency Alerts App – Apple/iPhone/iPad from Andrew Balfour on Vimeo.

This short video created by School-links demonstrates how to use the Emergency Alerts app on your iPhone or iPad.

Use the Emergency Alerts App to send text messages to staff, caregivers and students in minutes. You will then receive real-time delivery reports to enable you to identify parents who may need to be contacted by phone or email.

If you are unable to enter the school building or if the school network has taken a hit, you can use any smart device on the mobile network.

Examples of use include:

  • school closures
  • natural disasters
  • alerting staff and students to a lockdown unobtrusively

Accessing the Emergency Alerts App

  1. Tap the ‘My Schools’ app icon on your iphone or ipad.
  2. Note: the first time you log in you will be asked for your username and password, but from then on you will just need your pin code.
  3. If you are linked to more than one school, you will see all the schools listed.
  4. Choose the appropriate school and select ‘Visit as Master User’ and your previous messages will display, if any.

How to type an alert

  1. Tap the ‘new message’ icon in the top right corner
  2. Type a message up to 160 characters.
  3. Include the school name or a recognised shortcode, preferably at the beginning of the message, so that parents have confidence about the source and can identify which child/school the message concerns.
  4. Note: in a critical emergency situation, you may not have time to review replies. We recommend that if you have characters available then add ‘Do Not Reply’ or similar.
  5. Click ‘Save’ to come back to the message later or click ‘Save and broadcast’ to send the message immediately.

How to send an alert

  1. First, select your target audience. You can select more than one. Tap again to de-select if you make a mistake. Note that you cannot drill down any further e.g. to year level – messages will simply be sent to everyone in this category.
  2. To send, tap ‘Broadcast’. You cannot stop the message after this point. If you do want to edit it before broadcasting, select back to ‘Alerts’ in the top left.
  3. Once you have tapped ‘broadcast’, you will see the message and the status will read ‘queued for broadcast’. After a few moments, if you refresh your screen by dragging it down the message status will say ‘broadcast’.
  4. If you have saved a message previously, it will show up in this list as a draft. You can tap on the message to edit it or broadcast it.

How to access the delivery report

  1. To access a delivery report, log in as previously and tap on the message.
  2. You will see how many were delivered successfully, how many failed and any replies, if you requested a reply. As before you can drag the screen down to refresh.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us via our online support forum or free phone number.

 

How parent engagement can help with attendance management

July, 2017

How parent engagement can help with attendance management

The recent Ministry of Education report on student attendance rates, also highlighted that Maori and Pasifika students had the lowest attendance rates, with only just over 50 per cent, of these students regularly attending school.

While this is alarming, unfortunately this is not new information. Research into the subject shows that there are a number of factors that play a part in this, but one thing that schools can do to improve student attendance rates is to increase parent engagement with the school and encourage a more culturally inclusive school community.

Is your school putting in enough effort to include parents?

The key influencing predictor to parent support of their child’s learning is not parent or child behaviour or attitudes, but the school’s behaviour and attitude. When parents feel that the school is actively trying to involve them, they generally respond by becoming more involved in their child’s education. You can read one of our previous blogs to see how you can encourage parents to connect.

Unlock the parent potential

As always, communication is the key here. Communities are about relationships. Relationships are about communication. Help your students’ parents feel included and find their identity within their child’s school life through effective, regular communication.

To learn more about effective parent-school communication and strategies to involve parents at school, download the white paper.

Importance of parent engagement for schools

How to empower parents to help reduce truancy in New Zealand

July, 2017

How to empower parents to help reduce truancy in New Zealand

Is Early Notification absent at your school? Increase parent awareness of truancy by keeping them informed with easy communication apps.

A recent Ministry of Education report showed that student attendance rates were falling across New Zealand. 76,500 students were away from school each day in 2016. That equates to 10.2 per cent of students, up from 9.9 per cent in 2015.

Truancy costs schools significant time and resources

For schools that don’t have an early notification system in place and have to follow up on absent students manually, this rise in unexplained absences will also require an increase in time and money spent locating these absent students. For example, a school with a roll of 1000 students with a 10.2 per cent truancy rate can cost the school $20,400 per year in time spent following up and making phone calls. You can see for yourself what this could equate to for your school by using this calculator.

As well as potential significant cost savings to your school by having an early notification attendance management system, there are many other benefits such as student safety and providing a quicker and more convenient method for parents to be aware and respond.

Benefits of Early Notification for parents and caregivers

  • Fast notification of absence (which could potentially be a child safety issue).
  • Parents and caregivers can respond quickly and cost effectively.
  • It’s less embarrassing for them to respond to a text than a phone call if they had forgotten to notify the school of their child’s absence or the reason for the child’s absence is personal.
  • Texting is more convenient for those who are unavailable to respond to personal calls during work or study hours.
  • Feedback from our customers, says that texts are the preferred method of school communication for most parents and caregivers.

Benefits of Early Notification for Schools

  • Less time spent by the Attendance Officer in contacting caregivers of absent students.
  • Less expensive than calling mobile phones.
  • Responses go directly into the Student Management System and are easily viewed by the Attendance Officer, making them efficient to process (service offered by some EN providers).
  • Responses are saved in the Student Notes (service offered by some Student Management Systems).

Click here, to find out more about how an early notification system can help your school.

How to download the School-links Emergency Alerts App for Apple

July, 2017

How to download the School-links Emergency Alerts App – Apple from Andrew Balfour on Vimeo.

This short video created by School-links demonstrates how to download the Emergency Alerts app to your iPhone or iPad.

Note: to send email and text messages using the Emergency Alerts App you will need a Master level account in School-links. You should obtain this from School-links support prior to downloading the app.

  • To find the App open the Play Store on your device and select ‘search’
  • Type ‘School-links’ (It is important to include the hyphen as there is another unrelated app also called ‘school links.’)
  • You will see ‘School-links Emergency Admin’
  • Tap on this to proceed.
  • Now tap on ‘install’
  • You now have the App and will see the sign in screen. There will also be a School-links icon on your phone.
  • Now you can log in and get started

If you have any questions or wish to create a Master Level account please contact School-links support.

How to download the School-links Emergency Alerts App for Android

July, 2017

This short video created by School-links demonstrates how to download the Emergency Alerts app to your Android phone or tablet.

Note: to send email and text messages using the Emergency Alerts App you will need a Master level account in School-links. You should obtain this from School-links support prior to downloading the app.

  • To find the App open the Play Store on your device and select search.
  • Type School-links. It is important to include the hyphen as there is another unrelated app also called ‘school links.’
  • You will see ‘School-links Emergency Admin’ (by Devine Systems Ltd, a School-links contractor).
  • Tap on this to proceed.
  • Now tap on ‘install’.
  • You now have the App and will see the sign in screen. There will also be a School-links icon on your phone.
  • Now you can log in and get started.

If you have any questions or wish to create a Master Level account please contact School-links support.

School-links complements KAMAR

May, 2016

School-links integrates with KAMAR

In the lead up to the KAMAR conference on 26-27 May 2016, we are putting the spotlight on the School-links integration API facility with KAMAR.

School-links KAMAR API provides seamless integration with your SMS and allows you to send and receive texts directly from KAMAR.

Attendance management

  • Notify parents immediately at the click of a button that a student is absent.
  • Find out your cost savings of using School-links EN using our cost savings calculator. Click here.
  • Plus the additional School-links EN ‘Student Search’ feature, allowing school management to view all the communications sent to parents in relation to their students absentees (extremely useful for Principals and Deputy Principals as supporting evidence in their family conferences around any attendance issues).

Community engagement

Open up a whole world of other options to engage with your parents and caregivers. School-links allows KAMAR schools to send texts for cancellations, school events, reminders or emergencies directly from within KAMAR in the Groups, Markbook, Fees or External Programs areas.

1.    Identify students

Within KAMAR use the familiar ‘Find’ screen to identify a student or group of students that you want to text and select the parent or caregivers contact details, be it an absence notification or a congratulations on an achievement!

2.    Type your text message

Type your text message, provide an email reply address where the parent or caregivers text responses will be sent, confirm you are happy with the message and click ‘Send.’

3.    Sit back and enjoy

Sit back and enjoy the increased engagement with your community or be safe in the knowledge that parents and caregivers are aware of absences or emergencies. Text replies will all be sent to the email that you provided for you to check at your convenience.

KAMAR Conference 2016

The School-links team are looking forward to attending the 2016 KAMAR conference in Auckland next week. We love meeting new people in the industry and having discussions about getting the most out of the KAMAR system. We invite you to come and introduce yourself at our stand.

To learn more about how School-links can complement your KAMAR system, click here.

Want to learn more? Enquire now.

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